Oct 7, 2022 - Food and Drink

Asheville's new breweries elevate city's beer scene

A North Carolina state flag hangs above the taps at Zillicoah brewery outside Asheville.

A North Carolina state flag hangs above the taps at Zillicoah Beer outside Asheville. Photo: John Frank/Axios

Asheville's beer scene is evolving to new levels, Axios' resident beer geek John Frank found on a recent tour.

State of play: A decade ago, I wrote a beer column for the News & Observer about how Wicked Weed Brewing and the arrival of national brewers — Oskar Blues, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada — planted the city firmly on the beer map.

What's new: Newer players and the stalwart standouts now combine for an amazing tour of breweries that offer something for everyone.

The tap list at Burial Beer.
The tap list at Burial Beer. Photo: John Frank/Axios
The must-visit

Three breweries stand out from the crowd.

Burial: Back in the day, the small taproom was filled with scythes and odd antique farming equipment. Now it's buzzing with so many people and beers you barely notice the deathly theme until you try to read the tap list.

  • Sip: Anything. Hazy IPAs, sours and the most decadent stouts, you can't go wrong here.

Hillman: A great lunch spot with good food — try the fried chicken sandwich with spicy mayo — that offers a wide variety of beers. The location just south of Biltmore Village has plenty of outdoor seating and fills with locals and tourists.

  • Sip: The Oats and Hill stout is robust but not too heavy, meaning you can have more than one and drink it all summer.

Zillicoah: Situated just a few miles north in the town of Woodfin, the brewery's sprawling waterfront campus on the French Broad River is worth an entire day itself. Sit at a picnic table, lounge in an Eno hammock, or rest by the fire while you taste classic, easy-drinking lagers made the traditional way with open fermentation.

  • Sip: Sours, stouts and IPAs round out the menu, but go for the classic Helles.

What's next: From there, create your own adventure.

Highland Brewing proudly declares its legendary status. Photo: John Frank/Axios
Highland Brewing proudly declares its legendary status. Photo: John Frank/Axios
Kick it old school

These mainstays are still hip.

Highland: The oldest craft brewery in Asheville remains one of the best to visit because it's an experience — music venues, white-sand volleyball courts and a disc golf course, and tables in the pine forest that give you the western North Carolina feels.

  • Sip: Whatever's on the black and white boards signifying it's taproom only.

Hi-Wire: This award-winning brewery continues to stay relevant with its South Slope Asheville location that is an experiment hub and fun place to try beers you can't buy in the story

  • Sip: Whatever's new and only available here, but gravitate to the IPAs.

Wicked Weed: It's hilarious to me to list them as old school, but since selling to Anheuser-Busch, the brewery has lost a bit of luster. That doesn't mean they don't make great beer, though

  • Sip: The Dr. Dank series and buy the White Angel bottle, a bucket-list North Carolina sour.
Brewing medals hang at Bhramari Brewing
Bhramari Brewing's awards. Photo: John Frank/Axios
The new schoolers

The new class of breweries lean toward the latest beer trends.

Dssolvr: On the popular Lexington Avenue entertainment strip, this place is a beer oasis that specializes in soft, fruity hazy IPAs but also offers barrel-aged sours and an amber for your dad.

  • Sip: At 4.8% ABV, the Thank You for Existing Kolsch is a crowd-pleaser.

Bhramari: Pushing the limits fills the tap list at this laid-back brewery in the heart of the South Slope Brewing District. The place to sit is on the porch or in the rustic courtyard to enjoy the open mountain air.

  • Sip: Hops dominate the menu, so try anything double-dry hopped and from there explore fruity sours to crisp lagers, all with a twist.

New Origin: Off the beaten path, the seven-barrel brewery keeps it hip, making the latest styles even if it's rough around the edges at the start. Think hazy IPAs, smoothie sours and crazy adjunct stouts.

  • Sip: The fruited gose ("gose-ah"), a tart German style beer with a bunch of fruit and fun ingredients.

Of note: Can't decide what breweries to visit? Just hit The Whale, a beer bar and bottle shop with the best of the best.

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